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Defense dominates first-place Titans


The Texans' offense has been generating all the headlines in recent weeks. The defense should start to get a little more attention after keeping the Tennessee Titans out of the end zone in a hard-fought 13-12 victory at Reliant Stadium.

In becoming only the second team to beat the Titans this season, the Texans also became the first to prevent the AFC South champs from scoring a touchdown. They held the Titans' rushing offense, which had amassed 527 yards in their previous two games, to 100 yards.

LenDale White, who came into the game tied for the NFL lead with 14 rushing touchdowns, was limited to 3.3 yards per carry.

"All week, you watch ESPN and NFL Network and they talk about how these guys were supposed to run the ball down our throats," cornerback Dunta Robinson said. "We feel now that we have the type of defense that we take those things personally."

The Texans came up with two takeaways in the red zone – a Fred Bennett interception in the end zone and a Nick Ferguson forced fumble at the Houston 15 – to win the turnover battle against a team that had been 11 in turnover margin this season.

They forced the Titans into four three-and-outs, a season-high for the Houston defense. They were strong against the run on first and second down, putting the Titans in third-and-eight or longer on nine of their 14 third downs and never allowing their "Smash and Dash" running game featuring White and Chris Johnson to get into a rhythm.

{QUOTE}They came up with big plays when the Texans needed them the most. The biggest: an incompletion on fourth-and-three from the Houston 32 with two minutes remaining. Kerry Collins' errant pass for Justin McCarreins, defended by cornerback Jacques Reeves, kept the Titans from moving into range for a potential game-winning field goal.

"We thought they were going to kick a field goal, but they went for it," linebacker DeMeco Ryans said. "They tried to make a play to finish us off, but once again, we stepped up to the plate and finished."

Last week, Ryans and the defense made a similar stand against the Green Bay Packers with their backs against the wall late in the game.

"This is two weeks in a row that a football team is in position, if they get five or six more yards, to beat us with a field goal," coach Gary Kubiak said. "And both times, our guys stood up and said, 'No,' and made a play. They did that again today. They've just been playing very, very well."

Perhaps the play of the game was made by defensive tackle Amobi Okoye. With 10 minutes left to play, Collins handed off to White on third-and-inches at the Houston 48. Okoye, who has been playing through a high ankle sprain for the past few weeks, dropped the 6-1, 235-pound White for a two-yard loss to force a punt.

"We've been talking to Amobi a lot, expecting more out of him as we move forward here," Kubiak said. "We let him know we understand he's playing hurt, we're just trying to push him, and I think he started pushing himself better this week. He was definitely a factor in the game."

Linebacker Kevin Bentley led the way for the defense with eight tackles. Ferguson had five tackles along with his forced fumble, which was recovered by defensive end Tim Bulman. Defensive tackle DelJuan Robinson had the best game of his career with three tackles for loss.

"Enthusiasm was sky-high," Ryans said. "It was out of the roof. Everybody was into what we were doing. Everyone was excited. It was awesome. You play a lot better when guys are like that."

This was the second time in four weeks that the Texans have held an opponent without a touchdown. Their last two opponents' third down conversion rates have been less than 20 percent.

"I'm very proud of the job (defensive coordinator) Richard (Smith) and his staff have done and the effort that we're getting on that side of the ball right now," Kubiak said.

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